Form a Legislative Network in Your School District
Take these steps to turn information into advocacy
1) Plan ahead now by identifying a network within your district to advocate for schools
2) Share information with your network to contact legislators throughout the year
3) Establish relationships now with your legislators
Why have a network of people to advocate for schools?
1) Legislators are elected locally & seek input from their local communities on issues
2) Legislators answer to those who elect them
3) Legislators notice if they’re not hearing from anyone in their local school districts
4) A legislative network can reinforce the perspective/work of associations (MSBA, MASA, EdPlus, etc.)
5) Share “real world” impact of laws/legislative issues
6) Potential mandates that erode local control 65 percent issue, TABOR, etc.
7) Build relationships with your local legislators
Steps to Take to Form a Legislative Network in Your School District
1) Make it a Priority
A) Superintendent and school board members agree that building relationships with local legislators and advocating for issues that affect public schools is important.
B) Superintendent serves as the lead for this effort or designates a lead (asst. supt., communications director, etc.).
2) Form a District Advocacy Network
A) Start by developing a contact list of people who provide insight on issues & have an interest in your district and public schools -- Tap into groups that already exist within your district (For example: Parent groups (PTO/PTA, Employee groups (teachers, etc.), Business leaders, Community/Civic leaders (chambers of commerce, city officials, etc.), School Board members
B) Collect contact information -- leverage e-mail communication (e-mail addresses are key to sustained contact throughout the year).
C) Host a planning session to share the purpose of the advocacy network
D) During the planning session: 1) Develop goals; 2) Train your network members (how/when to contact legislators, share information with neighbors, etc.); 3) Make plans for the school year; 4) Develop a meeting schedule (Fall, Spring, etc.) for the network regroup throughout the year; 5) Identify key issues affecting your school district; 6) Develop a legislative platform (or work from MSBA, MASA, EdPlus' platform)
3) Host a Meeting with Your Advocacy Network and Your Local Legislators
A) Hold your first meeting BEFORE the legislative session (Invite your local state rep./senator)
B) Share information with your legislators (Specifics about your district; Issues that are important to your schools and to education)
C) Give teachers the opportunity to share their perspective D) Find out how your legislator wants to be contacted during the session (Phone, E-mail, Fax) E) Get to know your legislators' aides during the meeting
4) Keep Your Network of Advocates Informed Throughout the Year
A) Advocates should stay informed of ongoing legislative issues that affect schools.
B) Advocates should read the newspaper and watch the news.
C) Pass along legislative updates from MSBA, MASA, EdPlus, etc. with specific action steps for advocates to take.
5) Continue to Forge Relationships with Lawmakers
A) Get to know your elected officials
B) Know when they meet
C) Track key education issues through MSBA, MASA, EdPlus, etc.
D) Talk with your legislators to learn positions on education/school issues
E) Invite lawmakers to Teacher of the Year/employee recognitions or any other district/school special events
F) Add legislators to your district publication mailing lists G) Visit lawmakers at their office in the state capitol
6) Keep Your Legislators Informed
A) Don’t wait for an issue to arise; communicate consistently and regularly
B) Meet with lawmakers at least twice a year to discuss issues that affect education in your district.
C) Become a resource for lawmakers on education issues
7) Advocate Throughout the Year
A) Establish systems of communication with the legislature REMEMBER: Correspondence should: 1) succinctly state the reasons to support or oppose certain measures; 2) Explain their impact on your schools B) Use your coalition of legislative advocates to advocate for education (provide appropriate, timely distribution of information to your legislative advocates)
8) Using Your Network of Advocates
A) When issues come up in the legislative session, provide your advocates with: Samples letters on issues; Key points related to issues; and Indicate the urgency of when they should contact their legislator.
Be sure to visit EducationPlus Legislative Action Center to view the latest updates on issues.